Late-Race Heroics Bring Logano His First Sprint Cup Series Richmond Victory
RICHMOND, Va. - Team Penske Racing's Joey Logano dramatically stormed from the fourth position off a final restart with five laps remaining at Richmond International Raceway to earn his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) victory in his past three starts and fifth through six full seasons just 0.946 of a second ahead of Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon.
"I'm more surprised than anyone else here. This is probably one of my worst racetracks. I had a really bad restart and I was like, 'Man, I really screwed up here, I'm not going to win.' This was one heckuva racecar and one heckuva race. Pretty cool to be standing here (in Victory Lane) at a racetrack you're not very good on," Logano said after scoring his third series top-five and top-10 finish through 11 starts at the track.
The 24-year-old wheelman, now the second driver to notch two series victories this season, comfortably raced his No. 22 machine while patiently waiting for a three-way battle for the lead between Matt Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20, Brad Keselowski's Team Penske Racing No. 2 and Jeff Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 to play out.
Kenseth raced in the middle groove with four of 400 laps remaining, attempting to hold off intense pressure from Keselowski and Gordon who respectively flanked the No. 20's right and left rear quarter panels.
The defending series champion Kenseth successfully held the point through Lap 396, but as his No. 20 approached the start/finish line, Gordon's No. 24 knocked Keselowski's No. 2 off its racing line by making contact with the rear bumper.
The No. 2's slide broke Kenseth's leading momentum. As he reset his line, Logano and his No. 22 dove to the inside line, completed a pass for the lead exiting Turn 1 and captured the checkered flag.
"The No. 20 was doing a good job of blocking the No. 2 at the top. I was able to get some air on the bottom and make the pass," Logano said of his winning move.
Gordon won a three-wide battle for second and crossed the finish 0.946 of a second behind Logano after holding off a hard-charging Kyle Busch in the JGR No. 18. Busch took third after making a late bid for the victory from the 16th position following a four-tire pit stop made during the ninth and final caution period that began on Lap 386.
Keselowski crossed the finish line fourth and Kenseth completed the race top five.
Gordon maintained the series championship lead for the third straight week by taking his second top-five and third top-10 finish in his past three starts.
"The restarts were something we were adamant about this year. It was definitely hurting us last year.
"Tonight, we didn't have a good short-run car, we had a really good long-run car. For about 40, 50 laps, it was the best car out there. We were battling hard. It just didn't come down the way we needed it to. We needed a little longer run.
"I had a blast tonight. Great short-track racing here at Richmond," he said.
Busch moved from sixth to fourth in the NSCS standings after registering his second third-place finish and third top-10 finish in as many races.
"I really doubted (Crew Chief) Dave (Rogers) coming down pit road for four tires with that few laps left in the race.
"When the restart happened, everybody kind of started shuffling to the bottom there a little bit in Turn 1. I'm like, 'Okay, fine. I'm going around the top.' Just those eight laps those guys in front of me had on tires, it looked like they had 80 laps on their tires the way I was able to drive through there with stickers.
"I just put it on kill out there and drove it like a bad mofo. I came home third. There was lot of crazy stuff going on out there. A lot of guys getting into each other.
"We took a gamble and it almost paid off for us. If those guys would've raced up front a few more laps and Joey and Jeff would've gotten bottled up a little bit more, I probably could've got there and raced them for the win," Busch said.
Keselowski banged out his fourth top-five finish of the season and his first since his March 9 victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He took issue with Kenseth's late-race strategy.
"Team Penske gave me a phenomenal car. Short-run speed was great, long-run speed, not so good. We had a couple of short runs at the end and were able to drive up toward the front.
"I had a shot at winning the race and felt like Matt ran me off the track. He was definitely racing to win, but you hope that when somebody races to win that they at least win the race if they're going to wreck you or run you off the racetrack.
"It's a mind-boggling move to me. I made sure I got him back and made sure my teammate could win the race," Keselowski said.
Kenseth defended his style after picking up his second straight top-five and fifth straight top-10 finish of the season. He will start the May 4 Talladega Superspeedway tilt second in the series standings and five points behind Gordon with three top-five and seven top-10 finishes this season.
"I did move up the track on Brad in (Turn 3), but we were racing for a win. I thought the track was wide enough with how high people were running.
"I did drive in there and try to give him a slide job, absolutely. I was trying to watch both lanes. I was trying to win the race. I think that's what all five of us were trying to do," Kenseth said.
The series makes its fourth Kentucky Speedway appearance June 28 in the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts. Tickets start at just $59 and include a prerace concert with country music artist Thomas Rhett. Fans who add a Kroger Fan Zone pass to their order will be able to see Rhett's concert trackside and enjoy infield access throughout the race day.
The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts will cap a three-race NASCAR weekend that opens with the June 26 Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 and additionally spotlights the Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.
Tickets, campsite and Kroger Fan Zone passes can be purchased through the respective pages of this web site, by calling (859) 578-2300 or visiting the speedway Sparta, Ky., ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Kentucky Hwy. 35 N.
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